ACC underfunding 'hurting' Fishrot accused
The Fishrot accused, through their lawyers, launched a scathing attack on the underfunding of ACC, saying it has no financial capacity to handle an investigation the size of the international bribery scandal.
10 July 2020 | Justice
Richard Metcalfe, defence lawyer for former fisheries minister Bernhardt Esau and his son-in-law Tamson Hatuikulipi, yesterday turned Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) testimony on its head, saying the commission has no funds to carry out a proper investigation, and that his clients are suffering as a consequence.
Metcalfe's pointed attack came as Namibian Sun revealed recently that the ACC said it would commit the bulk of the N$61 million allocated to it from this year's national budget to Fishrot investigations, which has become an international probe. Only N$2 million is available for forensic investigations for ACC, Namibian Sun had established. It was recently revealed that investigations are being conducted in several African countries, Europe and the United Arab Emirates.
Investigations are also ongoing in Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zimbabwe as well as Spain, Iceland, Cyprus, Dubai, Sweden and Norway.
More arrests are expected in Angola and Iceland, State advocate Ed Marondedze said recently during the bail proceedings of others accused in the saga, when the Fishrot accused appeared to determine the progress of the investigations.
Metcalfe said yesterday during the continuation of Esau and Hatuikulipi's bail application in the Windhoek Magistrate's Court that it is unacceptable that eight months after his clients' arrest, ACC has failed to confiscate their travel documents.
Esau and Hatuikulipi's bail has been opposed on grounds of them being flight risks.
Kawana, Iivula-Ithana drawn in
Metcalfe also wanted to know from the ACC why then attorney-general Albert Kawana and justice minister Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana, who endorsed then Law Reform and Development Commission (LRDC) chair Sacky Shanghala's plan to reform the Marine Resources Act of 2000, were not arrested in this regard.
ACC senior investigation Willem Olivier, a State witness in the matter, confirmed that Kawana and Iivula-Ithana were copied in the correspondence as well as Toucy Namiseb, who was the then chief of law reform.
“So, it seems as if even more persons were included. According to your theory, these people must also be noted in this grand scheme,” said Metcalfe.
However, according to him, the change of legislation was not done with the intention to commit fraud as is claimed by the ACC, but in fact to include more Namibians in the fishing sector.
Metcalfe further told Olivier that the problem in this investigation is that Olivier has no knowledge of how the fishing industry works, or its regulations.
He added that because Namibian fishing right holders did not have the required financial and technical capacity to catch their quotas, foreign investors came in to form joint ventures.
It is through these joint ventures, Metcalfe explained, that Tamson Hatuikulipi made such considerable income.
“There was great commercial incentive for someone who arranged these kinds of joint ventures. “There are such agreements in your files between Tamson Hatuikulipi and various entities of Icelandic Seafood giant Samherji,” Metcalfe said.
According to Olivier, these agreements were recorded by ACC as dummy agreements to facilitate payments.
Metcalfe informed Olivier that Tamson had negotiated several joint ventures between Namibian right holders and foreign companies, and in the process roped in his cousin James, who knew a lot of people in some of these companies because of his extensive involvement in the commercial sector.
This, according to Metcalfe, is why the Samherji group in 2012 asked Tamson to receive their new fishing vessel the Heinaste in Namibia.
ACC stands firm
“Whatever amount we receive, we shall give priority to the Fishrot case,” ACC spokesperson Josefina Nghituwamata told Namibian Sun recently.
“We know it is a challenge; however, as an institution, we have to do as much as we can with the little resources at our disposal.”
The ACC has been allocated only N$61 million for this financial year, compared to N$60.7 million in 2019/20, despite the multiple heavyweight investigations on its books, including the multibillion-dollar Fishrot case.
ACC director-general Paulus Noa recently said they would have to put on hold 17 high-profile cases because, once running expenses were taken into account, it would only be left with N$2 million for investigations.